Court sentences Chris Correa to 46 months in Astros hacking case


Crime and Punishment of a different sort

Yesterday, Judge Lynn Hughes sentenced Christopher Correa to 46 months in Club Fed. At first blush, the sentence seems harsh to me. Four years in federal prison for seeing how another club evaluates 19 year-old shortstops in the low minors? C’mon. It’s not as if Correa committed a violent crime or forced the Astros into bankruptcy. In March 2016, Forbes valued the Astros at $1.1 billion and estimated the team received an annual revenue of $270 million.

So why almost four years? Was it the perceived value of the trade secret information? The Astros valued the information at over $1 million. I don’t know much about the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, but I assume the value of the information stolen/accessed drives the sentence.

Also, Correa apparently accessed the information more frequently than originally reported. He apparently claimed he accessed the information a handful of times. The reports yesterday suggest Correa accessed the information more like sixty times. The discrepancy couldn’t have helped Correa.

I’d love to read the pre-sentence report. Unfortunately, the Court sealed it (as is routine).

Some unanswered questions:

  1. Did anyone else within the Cards’ organization know Correa infiltrated Ground Control?
  2. How did Correa use the information? Did the Cards benefit in a direct way? Did the team target a particular player based on the information? Did the Cards try to drive up the price on a player knowing the Astros wanted him?
  3. What does the league want to discover in its investigation? Will it punish the Cards?

I think this sentence is a huge wake-up call. I don’t anticipate many baseball men will risk real jail time to gain a marginal (at best) competitive edge in player evaluation. The sentence is a stronger deterrent than any penalty imposed by MLB.


Griffey and the best catch I’ve seen

A brief Ken Griffey, Jr. story to reflect on his impending induction and the greatest catch I’ve ever seen in person.

I attended this game at the Kingdome with a friend. I was home from my freshman year at Rice.  I sat in the upper deck in between third base and home. Kevin Bass cracked a shot to the right-center gap. As I saw the ball come off the bat, I thought Bass had hit it out. Then I thought it would be a double. Meanwhile, Griffey sprints towards the fence. I think there’s no way he’s going to catch it. And then SMASH! Griffey, Jr. slams into the fence:

Somehow–despite breaking his wrist–he caught the ball. Amazing.

That particular game had quite a collection collection of talent. Look at the scorecard: Edgar, Randy Johnson, Cal Ripken, Palmeiro, and Moyer all appear. But Griffey was the best player on the field that day, without question. He clubbed a bomb and another hit earlier in the game. He made the best catch I’ve ever seen.

Thanks Ken.

MLB upholds its ban against Pete Rose

Rob Manfred upheld Major League Baseball’s lifetime ban against Pete Rose. Manfred didn’t pull any punches in his written decision:

Most important, whatever else a “reconfigured life” may include, in this case, it must begin with a complete rejection of the practices and habits that comprised his violations of Rule 21. During our meeting, Mr. Rose told me that he has continued to bet on horse racing and on professional sports,including Baseball. Those bets may have been permitted by law in the jurisdictions in which they were placed, but this fact does not mean that the bets would be permissible if made by a player or manager subject to Rule 21.

In short, Mr. Rose has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing, so clearly established by the Dowd Report, or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent ineligibility in 1989. Absent such credible evidence, allowing him to work in the game presents an unacceptable risk of a future violation by him of Rule 21, and thus to the integrity of our sport. I, therefore, must reject Mr. Rose’s application for reinstatement.



The whole process is so sad. Like so many others, I admired Rose as a ballplayer. I wore out the pages of the Official Pete Rose Scrapbook as a kid. I started following baseball and collecting cards during the last two to three years of his march to the all-time hits record. His hustle and determination seemed second to none. And then he was effectively gone thanks to gambling, for reasons I didn’t really understand at the time.

Gambling by players, coaches, or teams is a far bigger threat to the game than steroids. No one would watch baseball if it wasn’t a competitive sport. That’s why baseball treats gambling as a mortal sin.

Rose gambled and he lied about it. He apparently continued to lie about it, even when seeking forgiveness twenty-five years after MLB banned him. Unfortunately, Rose confessed but never repented. It didn’t work. I think Manfred’s decision was a no-brainer under the circumstances.

Given the specific findings Manfred makes in his written opinion, I think this is the last we’ll hear about Pete coming back to baseball. There will be no groundswell for the HOF admitting Rose. Heck, I guess Fox Sports 1 doesn’t bring him back for the 2016 season after today.

What do you think about MLB’s continued ban of Pete Rose?


MLB to announce new pace of play rules

In its ongoing efforts to quicken the pace of play, Major League Baseball will announce it will implement several changes: (1) managers must initiate replay challenges from the dugout; (2) batters must keep one foot in the box, except for an “established exception;” (3) play will begin promptly following a commercial break; and (4) pitching changes will be subject to a time limit.

The first and third options shouldn’t create many headaches. I don’t think anyone enjoyed seeing managers dither with umpires while waiting for a clubhouse attendant to tell them whether to initiate a challenge. Most folks won’t strenuously object to play beginning immediately following a commercial, although I think we’re somewhat accustomed to a transition from scripted commercial to a pitch from the announcers to play.

The second option—keeping batters in the box—should improve the pace of game play by limiting human rain delays. At the same time, MLB may be glossing over some significant safety concerns in implementing this step. Generally, I want hitters facing mid to upper-90’s heat to be focused on the task at hand. If a hitter has problem focusing in between pitches, I want him to be able to step out and clear his thoughts. Hitters have enough problems avoiding high and tight fastballs. A distracted hitter may be less able to avoid those wayward (or not so wayward) pitches. So as long batters don’t suffer additional injuries, the proposal makes sense. Along these lines, I feel better that the MLBPA signed off on the proposals.

Some of the “established exceptions” may swallow the rule. According to Rosenthal and Morosi, the exceptions used in the 2014 Arizona Fall League included foul balls, foul tips, time being granted by the umpire, and wild pitches. How often do umpires grant time upon request? More importantly, how often do umpires deny a hitter’s request for timeout? Will umpires stop granting timeouts? Should batters have a finite number of timeouts during an at-bat?

I’m curious to see how the league enforces these new rules. MLB plans to assess minimal fines instead of penalizing players within a game (for example, balls or strikes). How minimal are the fines? Will MLB use a sliding scale based on player salaries? I’m also curious to see how this filters down into the minors and amateur ball, where hitters develop their at-bat habits. MLB needs MiLB and the NCAA to implement similar steps in order to make this policy work in the long-term.

As for timed pitching changes, I’m for anything that revives the bullpen cart.

While these changes may help on the margins, I think the explosion in strikeouts has slowed the pace of play more than anything else. MLB’s other potential initiative—eliminating the called strike below the knees—may ultimately be of greater significance.  Dayn Perry and Joe Sheehan have made this point more eloquently, but the explosion in strikeouts is killing pace of play. Shifts are something of a red herring. BABIP has remained roughly constant over the last few years, notwithstanding the increase in defensive shifts. We’re just seeing fewer balls in play and less action in the field. That slows the game—what we think of as the game, anyway—to a crawl. MLB needs to fix the strikeout problem to fix the pace of play problem.

UPDATE: MLB announced the changes this morning.

Are left-handed pull hitters a protected class?

Tom Verducci contends MLB should consider outlawing defensive shifts. Verducci bases most of his arguments on how the trend towards extreme defensive shifting has adversely affected left handed sluggers such as David Ortiz and Chris Davis. It’s an interesting read but the idea is fatally flawed. Some thoughts:

1. Much of Verducci’s argument relies on the down seasons suffered by LH pull hitters. Many of the hitters cited by Verducci are on the wrong side of 30 years old, including Ortiz, Brian McCann, Adam Dunn, and Ryan Howard. Verducci doesn’t adequately account for the potential effects of aging and/or injuries on player performance.

2. How did Ted Williams and Barry Bonds fare against the shift?

3. The players could force defenses to be honest. A hitter can try to go the other way and take what the defense give you. Defenses would have to consider playing a LH pull straight away if the hitter gets some cheap singles (bunting or not) going to the left side, right?

4. Why should LH pull hitters get such special treatment in the rules?